Fantasy Football Drafting By Tiers

Drafting based on tiers can be an easy and effective tool to simplify your approach. Far too often, owners draft based on need, rather than talent. That’s the easiest way to compromise your roster. You’ll end up with players you didn’t particularly like or want to draft, but felt constrained to take. You’ll take Frank Gore instead of Cam Newton, because hell, you NEED a running back! Except you don’t really think Gore will be great this year and you didn’t want him, but you took him because you had to. Forget that; use tiers. Tiers put you in control of your drafting a little more, instead of letting the draft board gain control over you. The basic idea is to lump players in the draft, or in each position, by tiers. Here’s an example:

There are three elite running backs in your estimation: McCoy, Charles, and Peterson. They are the top tier of backs. Then slightly behind those guys is your second tier, Matt Forte and Eddie Lacy, who could easily end up as the top running back in fantasy. You continue down, grouping players into tiers based on likely production. To see how tiers can help in a draft scenario, let’s group some quarterbacks:

Tier 1: Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, and Aaron Rodgers
Tier 2: Matthew Stafford, Cam Newton
Tier 3: Andrew Luck, Matt Ryan, Nick Foles, Colin Kaepernick, Tony Romo, Jay Cutler, RG3, Tom Brady, Philip Rivers
Tier 4: Russell Wilson, Andy Dalton, Big Ben, Carson Palmer
Tier 5: Joe Flacco, Eli Manning, etc…

You’re drafting in the 4th round and just saw Cam taken ahead you. Luck is available, and you haven’t drafted a QB yet, but you don’t think the difference between Luck and Rivers will be huge. You can get Luck in the 4th round, or wait until the 11th round and grab Rivers, who is also in your third tier. So, why take Luck if you can wait several rounds for a player you think will have similar stats? Wait six rounds, and stock up on running backs and wide receivers, and then grab a QB.

Is it really worth it taking Luck in the 4th round, when you get Rivers in the 11th?

Is it really worth it taking Luck in the 4th round, when you get Rivers in the 11th?

It’s really hard to calculate players across positions, especially with tiers. Is a first tier WR more valuable than a second tier RB? Is a second tier QB more valuable than a fourth tier RB? Is a second tier QB more valuable than a third tier WR? These are really hard things to gage. It’s pretty easy determining who’s better when looking at players of the same position, but when looking across position, it’s not so easy. But tiers can help with that too. Oh, there’s only one more player left in your top WR tier, and there’s five second tier RBs left? You should grab the WR. You can wait until next round to snag one of those second tier RBs.

The easiest way to see the tier strategy working to perfection would be to imagine drafts in the past. Remember when running backs were king in fantasy? Some people think they still are. I mean, remember when nearly every pick of the first two rounds was a running back? There’d be plenty of times when owners would see the rush on running backs and feel compelled to take one. And instead of taking an absolute stud WR or one of the top 2 QBs, they’d take a decent, but not great RB.

Tiers is just one way to simplify your draft board and rank players. Remember that there is no limit to how many players can be in any given tier. One tier might only have one player, while the next could have ten. That’s what makes it so helpful. It’s an organizational tool that eliminates the trap of drafting by need.

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